(12/27/12) - Approximately 2,700 children in the United States, ages 14 and under, die from accidental injuries in the home each year. Around 80 percent of these deaths were among children ages 4 and under. Most fatal injuries at home are caused by fire, suffocation, drowning, choking, falls, poisoning or firearms discharged unintentionally.
McLeod Safe Kids Pee Dee/Coastal urges parents and caregivers to check their homes for basic safety precautions. "There is no substitute for active supervision, but childproofing your home provides extra protection and peace of mind," says Ashley Costas, McLeod Safe Kids Pee Dee/Coastal Injury Prevention Specialist. "It is easy to eliminate the most obvious hazards—and it doesn't have to involve a lot of expensive equipment."
The first step in childproofing a home is to explore every room at a child's eye level. "Anything that can fit through a standard 1 1/2-inch toilet paper tube is a potential choking hazard. Of course, cleaning products, medications, alcohol, firearms and other potentially harmful products need to be stored out of reach and locked up," says Costas.
McLeod Safe Kids Pee Dee/Coastal also recommends these precautions:
• Test your smoke alarms every month. Make sure you have working smoke alarms in every level of your home, outside each sleeping area and in every bedroom. Also, check for fire hazards such as frayed electrical wires or flammable materials near heating appliances. Change the batteries at least once per year.
• Always supervise children while they are in the bathroom and follow other important safety guidelines. Set your water heater at 120 degrees Fahrenheit and test the bathwater with your wrist or elbow before putting your child in it. Keep toilet lids closed and locked, and doors to bathrooms and utility rooms closed. When not in use, put razors, curling irons and hair dryers out of reach. Never leave young children alone in the bathtub—drowning can occur in a matter of seconds and in only an inch of water.
• Install a self-closing and self-latching gate around the home swimming pool. Make sure the fence surrounds the entire pool and is at least 5-feet high.
• Look at every room as your child would. Ask yourself what looks interesting and what can be reached. Get down on your hands and knees, and check for small things children can choke on such as jewelry, coins, small toy parts, buttons, pins, nails, lithium batteries and stones. Be sure to keep all plastic bags out of reach and cover electrical outlets that are not in use.
• Always supervise young children while they are eating. To avoid choking, do not allow children under age 3 to eat small, round or hard foods, including hot dogs, hard candy, nuts, grapes and popcorn.
• Prevent serious falls. Keep furniture away from windows, install guards or stops on windows that are not emergency exits, install safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs, never use baby walkers and use protective surfaces beneath playground equipment.
• Avoid exposing children to potential poisons. Lock up potential poisons out of children's reach, including cleaning supplies, pet food, medicine, vitamins and alcoholic beverages. Read labels and follow directions when giving medicine to children. Know which houseplants are poisonous, and keep them where children cannot reach them.
• Install carbon monoxide detectors in the basement at least 15 feet from fossil-fuel burning appliances and every sleeping area. Be sure to test detectors every month. This invisible, odorless gas can be fatal. Make sure heating systems are vented outside and checked every year.
• Keep emergency numbers by every telephone. Call 9-1-1 if a child is chocking, collapses, cannot breathe or is having a seizure. If you suspect a child has been poisoned, call 1-800-222-1222.
• Check your first aid kit to make sure it is fully stocked. Always check expiration dates, and make sure babysitters know where to find first aid supplies as well as how to handle an emergency.
"Safety comes first, even if it means making your home a little less convenient for adults," says Costas. "Safety gates and cabinet locks are a small price to pay to keep a child out of reach of the emergency room."
For more information on preventing accidental injuries in the home, please call McLeod Safe Kids Pee Dee/Coastal at (843) 777-5021 to speak to an Injury Prevention Specialist or visit www.McLeodSafeKids.org.
McLeod Safe Kids Pee Dee/Coastal works to prevent accidental childhood injury, the leading cause of death in children 14 and under. McLeod Safe Kids Pee Dee/Coastal is a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations dedicated to preventing accidental injury. McLeod Safe Kids Pee Dee/Coastal is funded in part by the McLeod Health Foundation.